February 3, 2014
How to deal with a co-worker's bad behavior
Ever had a co-worker try to humiliate you or ridicule your ideas in front of others? There are professional ways to put a stop to poor behavior in the workplace. For example, here's a question I recently received:
I have a co-worker who tries to make me look bad at every opportunity. For example, during a recent meeting I made a suggestion to the team. Everyone liked my idea except for this one person. She singled me out and tried to humiliate me by making fun of my idea in front of everyone. This isn't the first time this has happened. I think she's good at her job, but why is she doing this to me, and what can I do to make her stop?
When people feel secure in themselves, believe in their skills and have a high level of self-confidence and self-awareness, they will generally not behave the way you described. It sounds like your co-worker is an insecure individual or feels threatened by your expertise.
It's rough being on the receiving end of this type of bad behavior. So how to handle the situation? For starters, try your best to maintain your composure at all times while at work, and never stoop to the behavior level of your co-worker.
Next, you can choose to allow your co-worker's behavior to continue unchecked and hope that it will eventually stop (which rarely happens), or you can take a proactive approach and meet with this person (my preference).
If you choose the proactive approach, meet with her in a private location. Without sounding angry or defensive, describe to her the specific situation and behavior that occurred and tell her how it made you feel when she made those comments. Ask if it was her intent to make you feel that way.
Then listen to what she says. Don't get defensive or attack her behavior. Keep the discussion climate open and positive. Hear her out -- she may not have realized what she was doing to you by making those comments. Be patient and be honest with her, and work to build trust between the two of you.
Tell your co-worker you respect her work and think very highly of her -- and that you want to ensure the two of you have a positive working relationship. Then ask her for suggestions on how the two of you could work better together.
In my career, I've seen a lot of people act in this manner. They wrongly believe that humiliating others or shooting down other people's ideas will somehow make them look better (or feel better).
Fortunately, most people see through this type of bad behavior, and the person it hurts the most is the offender. He or she typically ends up losing credibility and the respect of many co-workers, including management.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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